Saturday, April 17, 2010

Bullying Of Tenants In Foreclosure Evictions Continues As Owners, Lenders, Real Estate Agents Blatantly Disregard Federal Law

In Miami, Florida, The Miami Herald reports:
  • All she had was 48 hours to clear out her belongings and vacate the house where she had lived for three years. One day last September, Gladys Flores received an unexpected visit from the owner of the property she rented in Little Havana. She had not seen him for months. Flores had religiously deposited the $600 monthly rent. The landlord came to inform her that the house had been repossessed by the bank.

  • "He told us, `Either I call the police and you take everything out or I put a lock on the door so you cannot get in,' '' recalled Flores, a 53-year-old Peruvian immigrant who lives with her husband and makes a living as a housekeeper. The Flores had no money to rent a moving truck, so they took all their possessions -- in a shopping cart -- and left in fear, without filing a complaint with authorities.

  • Since the onset of the foreclosure crisis, tens of thousands of renters in South Florida have suffered the fate of the Floreses. They have been tossed out by banks and landlords essentially overnight with no mercy, and without any protection from the state of Florida.


  • Not surprisingly, Miami and other municipalities in South Florida are among the cities where the most violations of the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama last year, are happening. The provisions phase out at the end of 2012. "The law in general is being deliberately ignored,'' said Purvi Shah, a Florida Legal Services attorney who heads the Community Justice Project.(1) "The judicial sector must do its part to ensure compliance with these federal laws.''

  • Under the act, tenants who have an oral or written lease arrangement are entitled to remain in the repossessed home until the end of their lease, unless the purchaser at foreclosure plans to make the property his or her primary residence. Even in this situation or if the tenants have no lease, the purchaser must deliver a 90-day notice to vacate.

  • But the majority of banks, mortgage companies, real estate agents and foreclosure attorneys in South Florida continue to evict tenants within a matter of days, leaving them, literally, on the street, grass-roots organizations have told me. And the courts have done little to stop them.

  • One of the main obstacles is that most of the tenants -- who in general are immigrants and low-income individuals -- are unaware of these new laws and believe they must leave the moment the landlord or a bank agent knocks on the door with news of the foreclosure. Many of these agents are adept at intimidating tenants. They manipulate them with offers of small amounts of cash for the keys, but later never refund the security deposit.

For the story, see Renters bullied by owners facing foreclosure.

(1) According to their website, Florida Legal Services is a nonprofit organization founded in 1973 provide civil legal assistance to indigent persons who would not otherwise have the means to obtain a lawyer.